On August 5, 2020 the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) granted BHH’s motion to dismiss celebrity lawyer Jose Baez’s defamation claims against #MeToo activist, author and actress Rose McGowan. Baez is well known for winning acquittal for murder defendants Casey Anthony (accused of murdering her daughter Caylee) and Aaron Hernandez (former New England Patriot star accused of double homicide shooting in Boston), among others. In 2016, Rose McGowan was one of the first women to publicly accuse media mogul Harvey Weinstein of rape—a brave step that helped launch the #MeToo movement. In 2019, McGowan filed a lawsuit in California against Weinstein seeking damages for the “diabolical and illegal effort by one of America’s most powerful men and his representatives to silence sexual-assault victims.” McGowan’s lawsuit included allegations that Weinstein tried to steal her unpublished book, attempted to buy her silence and to undermine her reputation so that she would not be believed.
In 2018, McGowan hired Baez to defend her against charges in Virginia arising from cocaine allegedly discovered in a wallet she left behind on an airplane on a flight to attend the first Women’s March in Washington, D.C. McGowan believes that Weinstein arranged for the cocaine to be planted. A transcript from Weinstein’s New York rape case–involving other women, not McGowan–confirms the existence of e-mails written by Weinstein and his associates discussing Weinstein’s having planted cocaine in McGowan’s wallet. Weinstein claims he was joking in the emails. In January 14, 2019, McGowan accepted a plea in the Virginia case. Just over a week later, on January 23, 2019, McGowan was horrified to learn that Baez—her lawyer—had agreed to represent her accused rapist Weinstein in the New York rape case. McGowan spoke out in public against Baez’s decision to represent Weinstein. In the wake of McGowan’s California lawsuit against Weinstein—which included allegations about Baez—and on the eve of the expiration of the one year statute of limitations for claims arising from McGowan’s public statements decrying Baez’s decision to represent Weinstein—Baez filed a defamation suit against McGowan and her lawyers in the California lawsuit.
BHH lawyers Natalie Harris and Brendan Healey filed a motion to dismiss Baez’s claims against McGowan arguing, among other things, that her statements reflected her protected First Amendment opinion of Baez’s conduct. The court agreed and dismissed all of Baez’s claims. Additional coverage of the victory appeared in The Daily Beast , The New York Daily News and Page Six.